America got a big dose of shock therapy on last night’s American Idol. There was the initial shock of Ryan’s announcement that there would be a shocking result. And once that shock wore off, it was replaced by the shocking news that voters had cast Michael Lynche into Idol purgatory. Then we were shocked again as the judges unanimously voted to use their one save to resurrect the big fella for at least one more week.
All of which would be very shocking except for one thing. Step back a bit, and it all becomes pretty predictable when you look at two key Idol voting patterns over the years:
Dude’s Too Old: Taylor Hicks, who turned 29 during his time on the show and seems to have been a bit of a fluke, is the only Idol winner who was older than Mike (who's 26). The average age of Idol winners over the show’s eight seasons has been 22. I remember watching Mike during his up-close-and-personals; he was cradling his baby and I wrote, “This guy is a grown-up.” On Idol, that’s not necessarily a good thing, and it probably wasn’t a coincidence that the show’s dads were in the bottom two last night.
Male Soul Singers Just Don’t Do Well On Idol: Let’s skip the race card accusations, shall we? That’s not really the point. Idol viewers have voted for three African-Americans among the show’s eight Idol winners, so it seems a matter of changing tastes more than anything else.
Cute, non-threatening guys will always have their day on Idol, and this year we've also witnessed a definite movement toward alternative female song stylists; Crystal and Siobhan remain among the favorites. Soul and R&B; guys like Mike—who skip the pyrotechnics and dance-driven performances we've seen on the show in recent weeks from Usher, Diddy, and Jason Derulo—just aren’t seen as contemporary enough (to borrow the judges’ parlance). Luther Vandross is dead, literally and figuratively. And Mike’s attempts to define himself as something more than a traditional crooner apparently haven’t succeeded. His “Eleanor Rigby” clearly didn’t work.
The Beyonce/diva model may still have a bit of life in it, but old-school soul hasn’t fared well on Idol. Ruben Studdard may have won in Season 2, but ever since then, African-American women belters have fared much better than their male counterparts.
Other questions to ponder:
—If all of Michael Jackson’s dance moves are still alive thanks to Jason Derulo, can Dr. Conrad Murray still be charged for manslaughter?
—Forget the demographics: Did the prospect of Big Mike going nipple-to-nipple with Simon in a “pec contest” doom his chances?
—Who wins a mixed martial arts fight: David Archuleta or Aaron Kelly?
—And based on her outfit during last night's group number, should Crystal Bowersox change her name to Crystal GoGoBoots?
Were you happy to see Big Mike saved?